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Don’t Dismiss “Don’t Be a Jerk”

11:52 AM EDT on April 25, 2011

Last week, Doug Gordon wrote that DOT’s upcoming “Don’t Be a Jerk” campaign is the wrong message to educate cyclists at the wrong time. I disagree.

“Don’t Be A Jerk” is precisely the sort of catchy phrase that is needed to wake up all New York City cyclists, of all economic classes and educational backgrounds, to the need to obey the rules of the road.  It is simple and direct, and has a New York ring to it.

Illegal cycling is commonplace. And illegal cycling is what feeds the backlash against bike lanes in New York.  To deny this is dangerous to the future of cycling in New York.

Just this Easter morning, my daughter and I jogged up 8th Street from Fourth Avenue for a run in Prospect Park.  We saw three cyclists riding up 8th against traffic, and a giggling couple riding up the very narrow sidewalk on the south side of 8th Street between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue.

If this isn’t “jerky” behavior, I don’t know what is. There are clearly marked bike lanes on 9th Street.

The DOT under Janette Sadik-Khan has paved the way for cyclists on NYC streets.  We need to use the bike lanes, and use them responsibly. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot use the bike lanes when it is convenient, and then ride the wrong way, or on the sidewalk, or through stop lights and stop signs when we want.

Transportation Alternatives is addressing aberrant cycling behavior with its “Biking Rules” campaign and its Bike Ambassadors program. These efforts reach a certain segment of the biking community. But they do not have the pervasive impact that a TV, radio and billboard “Don’t Be A Jerk” campaign will have.

I hope it will be presented in several languages.

Of course I am in agreement with Deputy Mayor Wolfson’s reasoned arguments about the importance of cycling to the future of the city.  I have written elsewhere about the dramatic gains in safety that have resulted from the DOT’s re-engineering of New York’s streets.

And yes there are New York drivers who drive like jerks.  But previous administrations taught them that the roads belonged to cars. The Bloomberg administration has given cyclists 250 miles of bike lanes on the city’s streets. The bike-share program is coming. We need to show that we want bike lanes and will use them responsibly.

Steve Hindy is a member of Transportation Alternatives' Board of Directors. The views expressed in this post are his own.

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